CHR to DepEd: Closure of lumad schools could be violation of kids’ right to education
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday, Oct. 7, urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to reexamine the continued closure of lumad schools in the Davao region, expressing concern it was violating indigenous children’s right to education.
In a statement, Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said that DepEd should seek an open dialogue with lumad leaders.
“It is part of the government’s responsibility to make sure that these children, who are also indigenous people, are able to properly exercise their right to education,” Pimentel-Gana said.
“Children should be protected from all forms of abuse and violence. This protection, however, should not come at the expense of their other rights,” she added.
In July, DepEd ordered the closure of 55 lumad schools in the region, claiming that these used curriculum not approved by the department and teaching leftist ideology, an accusation first made by the military and repeated by President Rodrigo Duterte in his rants vs lumad schools.
The DepEd suspended permits to operate to the nonprofit Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igaknogon Community Learning Center Inc. in an order that relied on a report by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, armed forces chief of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, saying the children were being taught to fight the government.
But Pimentel-Gana said that these allegations should be first investigated and vetted.
“This applies to other kinds of rumors or allegations against these schools for indigenous people. Accusations and malicious information can lead to harassment, disenfranchisement and needless violence,” she said.
The DepEd must first determine whether there are enough schools near lumad communities to accommodate indigenous children, she said.
Groups supporting the operator of the lumad schools denounced the closure order by DepEd, calling it unjust and violation of lumad children’s right to education.
Meggie Nolasco, Salugpongan executive director, earlier said the schools—which had been operating for 10 years—had provided education to lumad children who lived in remote communities often accessible only by foot.
Children who had attended DepEd schools were forced to drop out because the schools were too far from where they lived and they walk 3 kilometers just to reach school and another 3 kilometers to get back home./TSB